Fake news? White House says AP report on 100K Nat’l Guard deportation force “100% not true”

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Has the White House considered a call-up of 100,000 National Guard reservists to use as a deportation force? It depends on the definition of the word “considers.” The Associated Press sent out a tweet earlier this morning that reported that plan under consideration — which would result in “unprecedented militarization” of immigration efforts:

BREAKING: Trump administration considers mobilizing as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up unauthorized immigrants.

— The Associated Press (@AP) February 17, 2017

The story from Garance Burke followed immediately afterward, which noted that the memo had been written by DHS Secretary John Kelly:

The Trump administration is considering a proposal to mobilize as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up unauthorized immigrants, including millions living nowhere near the Mexico border, according to a draft memo obtained by The Associated Press.

The 11-page document calls for the unprecedented militarization of immigration enforcement as far north as Portland, Oregon, and as far east as New Orleans, Louisiana.

Four states that border on Mexico are included in the proposal — California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas — but it also encompasses seven states contiguous to those four — Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

Governors in the 11 states would have a choice whether to have their guard troops participate, according to the memo, written by U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general.

CNBC’s Steve Kopack smelled a rat. Noting briefly that this is merely a draft, he also quickly posted a denial from the White House that this plan is under consideration at all:

Regarding draft memo reported on by the AP, a senior administration official tells @NBCNews' @PeterAlexander: "This is false."

— Steve Kopack (@SteveKopack) February 17, 2017

Sean Spicer went on the record about it on Air Force One:

On Air Force One, @PressSec knocks down report that National Guard might be used to round up illegal immigrants. Says "100% not true."

— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) February 17, 2017

“There is no effort at all to round up, to utilize the National Guard to round up illegal immigrants," Spicer told press pool on AF-1.

— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) February 17, 2017

NBC reporter Benjy Sarlin also found it difficult to believe, especially since the Trump administration had asked for funding an additional 10,000 ICE agents for this task:

This sounds completely bizarre. Trump only proposed adding 10k ICE agents and there's nowhere near the infrastructure to deport this way. https://t.co/oX3aTdcrJT

— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) February 17, 2017

Even if this was under serious consideration, the use of the National Guard for immigration enforcement wouldn’t have been entirely unprecedented. Guess who ordered it six years ago? (Via Jeryl Bier)

President Obama’s decision last year to send 1,200 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border may have been smart politics, but a growing number of skeptics say the deployment is an expensive and inefficient mission that has made little difference in homeland security.

Critics of the deployment include budget hawks, who say it is a waste of money, and residents here along the border, who say they are tired of seeing armed troops in their back yard. …

Most of the criticism of the deployment focuses on its costs and benefits. The 1,200 National Guard troops have helped Border Patrol agents apprehend 25,514 illegal immigrants at a cost of $160 million — or $6,271 for each person caught.

“As a mayor, I am not going to say we don’t want more security. But as a taxpayer? I would say something different,” said John David Franz, mayor of Hidalgo, in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley.

Could it be done? Sure, and it might have gotten some White House spitballing at some point, thanks to the precedent set before Trump. However, the same precedent shows that it’s not a terribly effective policy, and it creates more problems than it solves. The plan, as discussed in the memo, envisions leaving the National Guard under the direction of governors to avoid nationalizing the troops, which means that the governors could reject the idea altogether. That would certainly be the case in California, and maybe New Mexico too, which would put a big dent in the plan.

If Kelly did write the memo, then reporting it as “under consideration” might not be fake news, but it certainly would be out of context news. Draft memos do not provide any clear indication of administration policy, and sometimes agencies game out plans that they’re not necessarily endorsing themselves. A military leader like Kelly would have the instincts to plan for all potential contingencies, including military assaults on nations with which we have no current conflicts. This draft memo may be nothing more than ensuring that all policy options have been fleshed out and ready depending on the president’s preferences. That’s potential context about which reporters should know, especially those at the Associated Press, and should take time to check out before publication.

And, lo and behold:

DHS confirms that the memo reported by AP did exist; but they said it was "never seriously considered" https://t.co/4kB6rLfyCX

— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) February 17, 2017

All in all, this certainly lends some credence to Donald Trump’s complaints about the media chasing false or misleading stories. It seems that some in the media rushed into a trap of their own making this morning. And maybe Kelly needs to start looking within DHS to see who’s leaking these spitballing efforts, too.

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